Thursday, July 23, 2015

Everyday Above the Ground is a Good Day

Our professor started off class this morning by asking the people in wheelchairs (which included me) how their experience went last night and I definitely was able to see a whole new perspective. At most parts, I tried to keep an eye out for strangers that might have me in their visuals. I try to look for their reactions when they see me, and most of the time I tried to go towards the tour groups that came throughout yesterday and today. Some people reached out to me to see if I needed help and some averted their eyes. Most of the people that my classmates have bumped into said that they could not believe what they were seeing, from the thought of 10 wheelchairs rolling around together in a group to questioning a few of them by asking, "Are you serious," after seeing a few girls share a laugh. Whether or not they knew we were not actually disabled, that was an incredibly offensive comment, it is like they are assuming that those who are actually immobile can not ever have some fun in their life. 

Some of the main challenges for me was my size, the wheelchairs were basically one-sized, but since I am on the smaller side, my arms got bruised easily from moving the wheels. Once I had gotten used to going up on hills, the job got easier for me. I am used to getting sore arms too because I also do conducting at my school for band, but it was not so sore after today (if anything, I feel a lot stronger).

As I have mentioned in yesterday's blog, we had a guest speaker this morning. His name is Sal Gonzalez, born from L.A., CA, works for Wounded Warrior, survived an accident on Halloween of 2004, and performed on America's Got Talent last year. Sal came in and introduced where he was from, what he worked for, and made a lot of one-legged jokes. He told us a bit about his story serving in the army. He wanted to show his passion and love of freedom for the country that he is blessed to live in, so he was very inspired to serve. He joined right out of high school, went to boot camp, was a part of the infantry, and became a machine gunner. His job was to be on the look out for bombs and half of the time he found them because they had blew up right underneath him. Then on Halloween 2004, a bomb had exploded and hit him as well as his lieutenant. Sal woke up in Maryland, in a hospital with his family, and first he asked, "Why are you here in Iraq?". Then the second question he asked was, "Where's my machine gun?". He found out that one of the bombs had detonated and made his left leg lose over half of bone from knee down. Doctors tried to put nerves into the left leg by retrieving some from his right leg, which did not do much because by then, they had all decided to just amputate his left leg. 

Since he served in the army, he was fine with making jokes instantly about his leg. He could do just about anything with it, like one time he was at a bar and bet a guy for a beer that he could stick a knife in his leg and not feel it, and he stuck it in his prosthetic (while wearing pants of course), and won the bet. Another time, he had bet the bartender that he could kick or hit him by standing as far back as he wanted to, so the guy went two feet back and Sal took off his prosthetic and threw it at him. He still got a free beer though. He even tried to have the surgery filmed for him, or keeping his leg after it was cut off (both requests were denied to him). Sal spent a lot of the time answering any of our questions, like "What would you prefer when someone would ask about your leg: straight up or eventually bring it up?". Sal told us that with all of the gruesome things that he had seen in war, it was not as bad when talking about his leg, and I took this quote from him, "Everyday above the ground is a good day," so he showed me a way to try and not stress myself out over the little things. If it is not a life or death situation, then the problem will be resolved (if possible) and we will still live after overcoming it. After over an hour, he sat down and sang some of his songs for us (he has amazing vocals). 

Sal had to leave so the class went on a short break and then straight to lunch. This would be my last meal in a wheelchair until I would walk on two legs again (for most of the day). The treatment at lunch was not much different from the other time for meals that I have had. Getting back to the classroom after lunch was my absolute least favorite because it is the longest trip ever. Sweat breaks out within minutes and taking minimal breaks does not help so much. I am so glad to have gotten there without falling though, for it was raining throughout the day. We switched with our partners when the whole class got back, and it was now their turn to roll to Sweet Cece's with everyone. We went to Sweet Cece's for frozen yogurt and also to give the other person a chance to move around just as much as their partner did for the missions.
Though it is not seen here, their cookies and cream flavor
was the best (hands down)!

We took seats once everyone had purchased something (if they wanted to) and I sat with Hummd as well as a few other students and Ms. Talley! We discussed more about class and her plans that she had for us if the wheelchairs did not arrive late. I also talked to her about the colleges that I plan on applying to, and also found out about the colleges that she went to! She described her life as backwards to me because she had gotten married and had a child first, then went to an undergraduate college, and is currently at Vanderbilt University for graduate school. Thinking about all of the moments that we have had in class and taking into consideration of what I have learned from her so far, I am glad that I did not get accepted into the Med School 101 course (not that it is a bad choice or anything). I found that shadowing surgeons and doctors around in hospitals would not give me as much experience or liking as Ms. Talley's anthropology teachings. I really enjoy my class and am extremely looking forward to next week, which is focused on pharmaceutical sciences! I am currently interested in becoming a pharmacist in the future and would like to learn more about it before deciding on which colleges to apply to based on my major (which would depend if I choose to take the 6 year pharmacy program route or 4 years undergraduate, then 4 years in a pharmacy program). 

The class came back in time for study hall, which just consisted of researching and taking notes on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990's website. At Arete today (the last time we will see our instructor since she is not available tomorrow), I tried to make a henna band around just above my elbow, but I reached a part of where my arm blocked my angle, so the instructor did it for me. She used the design on my forearm on my armband too! Dinner came after Arete as always, then I participated in one of the SOFT plus activities (meaning that there were extra things to do in case we did not want to go out all of the time), so I tie-dyed one of my white shirts (it is actually one that I recently bought from the Vanderbilt Bookstore) and I think that I did a fantastic job on trying to make a spiral, but I will see the results tomorrow! 
Best glimpse that I got of the henna on my arm and me!
A closer look at her applied artistic talent on my

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